"I'm very excited about the whole situation at Iowa State," said Highsmith, who firmed up his decision after a visit with Cyclone head coach Dan McCarney this week. "It was actually my first time talking with Coach Mac. He's a very energetic person and upbeat about everything.
"He told me it's a very nice place up there. He talked about the offense, how he runs things and just put everything out there in front of me. I like the facilities they're building up there and how the program has gone to three consecutive bowl games."
Highsmith has also been impressed with assistant coaches Tony Alford and Chris Ash, who teamed up in his recruitment.
"The coaches are very nice people and honest individuals," Highsmith said. "I've been in contact with them since the summer and this is something we talked about. I talked it over with my family and Coach (Kevin) Verdugo. The opportunity to go play in the best conference in the country is very exciting. It can't get any better than the Big 12. Every week is a dogfight."
The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder signed with the Tar Heels in 2001 as a high school senior out of Highland Park, New Jersey. However, he soon found himself buried in the depth chart with Durant, Ronald Curry and Matt Leak. His decision to move on was an easy one.
"I was looking at it as an opportunity to play," Highsmith said. "I didn't see myself playing with Durant being an all-ACC candidate and breaking records left and right. He was playing well and got into the system. There was a possibility of him transferring, but he did return to the school.
"It just didn't work out for me. I figured someone else could use my talents and I would be able to display my talents, instead of just sitting around not doing anything. It's all about playing. I know I wasn't happy."
Highsmith also admired former Cyclone quarterback and current NFL rookie Seneca Wallace from afar, and thought ISU would be a good fit for him.
"Everybody knows about Seneca Wallace and how he excelled in their system," Highsmith said. "I'm not a Seneca Wallace, I'm a Terrance Highsmith, but I think we have some similarities as far as our playing styles.
"Iowa State's offense is the best fit for me, my playing style and how I like to attack defenses. I bring that running aspect to the game. I'm able to move and am mobile. I can pass the ball and run the ball. That threat of running and being able to do two things with the ball makes the defense respect you. It brings another threat to the table."
The talented JUCO quarterback is also aware of another crowded depth chart at his next stop. The Cyclones return their top four quarterbacks from this season in starter Austin Flynn and backups Cris Love, Waye Terry and Bret Meyer.
But the situation in Ames, while similar to the one he encountered in Chapel Hill, did not effect his decision. Highsmith said he would even be open to a position change if it meant contributing sooner.
"I just want to help the team any way I can, that's the first goal," he said. "The number one thing is for us to win. Wherever Coach Mac sees fit for me to play, that's where I'll play. He said my first shot will be at quarterback. But if everything doesn't work out, as long as I touch the field, play and contribute positively to the team, then I'm happy with it. I want to play college football."
Highsmith is the 11th commitment for the Class of 2004 and first quarterback to give McCarney a verbal. He'll graduate from Fort Scott in May and should be in Ames for the start of summer conditioning.